Imagine: Walking into a luncheon of 150 people, and having set before your a complete gluten-free meal, bread included, dessert included, with no fear of cross contamination.
Imagine: Opening your mailbox twice in one week to find gifts from people who share gluten freedom with you. Their notes, warm and loving, say, "thank goodness we're all in this together."
Imagine: Walking into a covered-dish lunch with a room full of strangers, feeling safe and sound. Imaging tasting and sampling and joyfully eating from all the dishes with no fear of cross contamination or illness, no worry in the world.
Imagine: Walking down the cereal aisle -- the REAL cereal aisle -- and being able to pluck a box of cereal off the shelf, then take it home and eat it!
All of these wonderful dreams were reality for me this past week. They were dreams that I never dared dream a year ago this weekend.
This weekend, you see, is an anniversary of sorts. It is the one year anniversary of my discovery that I might have to give up gluten for life. Heck, a year ago, I didn't even know what that meant I'd be giving up. FOREVER.
One year ago this past Friday at our annual Senior Luncheon, I met Hetty White's father, who had Celiac Disease. We ordered him a GF lunch, and he raved about the fact that he had a REAL lunch and bread and dessert, too! He and his wife were amazed, and me, well, I had no idea I'd be in his place a year later. See, Mr. White had ordered a GF meal, and I didn't even know what that meant back a year ago. I thought, "oh, we'll just get him a vegetarian meal and he'll be fine."
But thank GOD I asked questions and ordered that meal. It began for me a road to recovery, to healing, and to gluten freedom.
Once I heard his story, I did research, and as some of my readers know, I realized that I had many of the same issues Mr. White had. I had been diagnosed a few years ago with fibromyalgia, and my doctor said she thought I might even have chronic fatigue syndrome. But I could relate to some other things he spoke of -- the lack of energy, the "not wanting to leave the house," the chronic pain in my joints and especially in my left heel. The chipped teeth. The foggy feeling. We shared the other nasty side of this, of course, the gastric problems. But these other things, could it be that I had this CD thing?
We may never know if I have Celiac Disease, as I chose (after much research and consultation with my doctors) to go on a strict GF diet and not have the testing. It's the only treatment. I wanted to be well. So it goes.
But as I near the anniversary of my true Gluten Freedom day, I find myself bolstered with hope. I feel like I AM healing from the damage to my intestines, and I no longer have a lot of the CD-like symptoms. I still struggle with the neuropathy caused by type II diabetes, which means I sitll have a lot of stomach probelms. But one parent at the Senior Luncheon last Friday told me I looked GREAT. She added I hadn't looked that good the last time she saw me, two years ago. She's right. I was sick. I'm not that sick any more.
So this weekend, I am counting my blessings.....
Thanks to my friend Carol (hey Carol! I know you're out there) and her colleagues Yasmine and Theresa, the Middle Georgia glutern intolerance/Celiac Sprue support group is growing and thriving and about to grow some more. I went to my first meeting yesterday, and I enjoyed the company and the food so much. I want to support this, if only for the fact that I can meet with people who know how I FEEL once a month or so. I told my sweet Randy, he couldn't understand how good it felt to be able to eat lunch and just not worry. To eat food prepared by people who go through what I do EVERY SINGLE MEAL. Heavenly.
And my dear blogger family Kate and Stevie, well, we three celebrated Gluten Freedom Day this past week (some of you joined us). But we all decided separately to send the others gifts to celebrate. Mine was pretty lame -- I just sent them Penzeys gift cards so they could spend time in one of my favorite places and celebrate our mutual love of cooking. But Stevie, he sent powdered honey and shallot salt, and Kate, she sent fruit sweetened fudge sauce (OMGOMGOMG I ate it on fresh pineapple), and some GF licorice (no HFCS) and some GF Hoisin sauce. AND wheat-free Tamari! But what I loved most of all were the sweet notes that came with the packages. When ever I'm down and out, I know I have kindred spirits out there who live at Gluten Free Steve and Gluten Free Gobsmacked. I never dreamed that would happen. I was sure I was out here alone. I am so happy I am not.
And as for the annual Senior Lunchon Friday, which was a delight as usual (shoutout to the Girls Gone Wild in PR). And me, I had my OWN GF meal this year. Looked like all the others, but it didn't make me sick. And I had bread. And dessert. Oh happy day...
Oh, and thank you, General Meals, for making gluten free Rice Chex. Can Corn Chex be far behind? They even have a web site full of GF chex mix recipes. I made a fool of myself on some with chocolate and peanut butter yesterday....again. I felt safer than I'd felt in close to a year.
Those of you who are GF, you know how special these feelings can be; those of you who aren't, you don't know how lucky you are.
OH! I forgot. What did I bring to the covered dish? Crock pot Shallot Green Beans. I ate the rest for dinner. They are a tribute to my friend GF Steve, who sent me one of the main ingredients -- shallot salt!
Crock Pot Shallot Green Beans
2 bags frozen Italian Style green beans (they're really pole beans)
four oz. pancetta, diced (or diced bacon if you don't have pancetta)
1 can diced potatoes (they hold up better than cutting up potatoes in this dish)
2 shallots, diced, or 1/4 cup Penzeys freeze dried shallots
1 T. shallot salt
1 cup beef stock (I use Rachel Ray GF brand from WalMart)
Combine all items in the Crock Pot before you go to bed and set on simmer low. Cook all night. YUM.
These are Southern-style soft beans, not al dente crisp beans. But you'll love the taste. And the shallot salt....
Much love, and imagine....